Tag Archives: autobiography

FGC #621 Pokémon Legends: Arceus

Here comes those 'mon2001 saw the release of Shallow Hal, a generally unpleasant movie that took one fat joke and ballooned it to two solid hours. For anyone that never had the experience of watching the film (or missed the trailer, which is really all you need for this premise), the titular Shallow Hal is granted the hypnosis-induced ability to see people as physical representations of their personalities. So mean girls appear chubby and acne-ridden, while the overweigh-but-exceedingly nice Rosemary looks like Gwyneth Paltrow (because she’s Gwyneth Paltrow). This is, of course, an enormously problematic concept for a comedy, as everyone and their mother has already noted that there is no universe where such “unattractive” signifiers actually make anyone, ya know, unattractive. Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit is still Gwyneth Paltrow, dammit! Regardless, despite being mostly forgotten by the population at large, there is one bit in Shallow Hal that has always stuck in my mind. As part of the inevitable third act swerve, Shallow Hal is “cured” of his magical powers, and now sees Rosemary as the (supposedly) unattractive woman she has always been. The spell is broken in more ways than one, and now Shallow Hal laments the fact that he can no longer see his mate as the bombshell he always imagined her to be. Hal is forced to cope with how the woman he loves is no longer than woman he thought she was, even though she technically has not changed at all.

And that is a concept that has terrified me for a long time.

Get that bird!I am a weirdo. I like weird things. There is this one microwavable rice and chicken meal that was available in the frozen section around 2006 and I am convinced I was the only person that ever bought that (until they discontinued it for some odd reason). I have always had unusual tastes, and, while it is not impossible for me to like something popular, I seem to cherish the “weird stuff” a lot more than anything traditional. I am absolutely the person that would choose South of the Border over Disney World, and I am less interested in the Super Bowl than Netflix repurposing 1988 manga Bastard!! (of course I know it is going to be bad. It’s Bastard!!). And, to be perfectly clear, I am not noting all of this to paint myself as some cultural hipster that only likes the most esoteric of the eclectic; no, I am stating this simple fact to further reinforce that I do not know why I am weird. Where did this all come from? Why am I like this? No idea! And that means that whatever switch in my head that is labeled “likes weird stuff” could be clicked off at some point, right? I could wake up tomorrow, and realize I do not need a “Transformers collection” or “more comic books than could ever be read”. I could find myself in a situation wherein hobbies to which I have dedicated a lifetime no longer interest me. I could become someone who doesn’t like playing Pokémon games!

And, on a related note, after Pokémon Legends: Arceus, I never want to play a “normal” Pokémon game again.

I have always liked traditional Pokémon games. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon or Pokémon Ranger? Get that out of my face. But the good stuff? The games that started with the janky-ass Pokémon Red/Blue/Green, and, over decades, evolved into the Sword and Shield we know today? Perfection. Pokémon itself started when the Dragon Quest formula had been developed over multiple iterations, and now we had a perfect jumping off point for monster hunting. Eternally choosing between four moves! Evolution after certain conditions, but usually level ups! Trainers and pokémon alike itching for those turn based battles! And let’s not claim nothing has changed over the years. The types, breeding, and even simple battles have received multiple quality of life and speed improvements over the years, so it no longer takes hours to raise enough scratch to purchase better EVs. Pokémon, as a franchise, has always been “old school”, but it is the kind of old school that can be appreciated to this very day.

… Except when you play something that reinforces how “regular Pokémon” is a granny puttering along with Erdrick’s walker from 1984.

Too many 'monsRight from its announcement, everyone wanted to peg Pokémon Legends: Arceus as Pokémon: Breath of the Wild. And, let’s not kid ourselves, there is a lot of “open world” design involved in this Pokémon title. But you know what also heavily contributed to the latest way to catch a bidoof? Pokémon Snap. Pokémon Let’s Go. Games outside the catching genre, like Metal Gear Solid. There even seems to be a not insignificant amount of Xenoblade Chronicles in the mix. The mainline Pokémon series always felt like it was produced by people that had exclusively played the previous mainline Pokémon series, but now we have a Pokémon game that was designed by people that took a break from Blissey breeding. As a result, so much of what is Pokémon has been streamlined to a previously unheard-of degree. There’s an outbreak of gible? Once that meant challenging every last lil’ gator-dragon, reducing it to as little HP as possible, and then chucking balls and hoping for the best. Now you can catch fifteen of the suckers inside of three minutes, and all it takes is some bait and a good hiding place. Sure, you can still fight them, but why would you? Why would you ever bother with that again?

And, while the Breath of Wild comparison now comes to the forefront, the unprecedented level of physical motion allowed in this Pokémon title is… unprecedented. Like when you attempt to make a dramatic point but hit the wall of a limited vocabulary, previous Pokémon titles were infamous for how limited every region would become during actual play. Pokémon could be hiding around every corner was always the promise, but the reality was continually that chimecho was limited to a 4×7 block of grass outside one specific cave, pichu was only ever going to appear as the result of pikachu getting their volt tackle on, and you could always tell when you were inside a cave, because you spent the entire time tripping over low flying zubats. In short, from Pokémon Red to Pokémon Sword, you always knew you were on the prescribed path, and documenting Pokémon for a Pokédex that somehow already knew exactly where in the world to send you to find a kricketot. In Pokémon Legends: Arceus, though? Once you get some of the more mobile mounts, the idea of actually exploring for Pokémon opens up like a writer finally buying a thesaurus so they can use words like “unparalleled”. You can climb over rocks, sail across rivers, and even fly over a vast world where your literal bird’s eye view may also reveal a munchlax bathing in a nearby spring Taking flight(you pervert). You might still be bound by invisible borders and “limited” regions, but within those limits, it genuinely feels like you can go anywhere. And that is more important than anything in a franchise that has always vowed to make you, gentle trainer, the number one scientific authority on teddiursa habitats. For the first time ever, it feels like filling in that Pokédex is the result of studying a recently discovered spheal habitat, and not just that you tossed a pokéball after hypnosis finally cleared its accuracy bar.

And speaking of filling that Pokédex, holy croagunk on a cracker did they find new and interesting ways to simultaneously add new features to the universe and satisfy a player’s insatiable need for numbers to go up. Completing every Pokédex entry involves poké-specific challenges that seem appropriate for their various evolutionary stages. A baby ‘mon needs to be fed to gain points, while a fully evolved rock wrecker must be witnessed using strong moves to super effectively slay opponents. And, while we’re on the subject of slaying, “hit it until it faints” is not the answer to properly logging so many different pocket monsters. This is amazing in a franchise that has always claimed Pokémon can be our friends… and then proceeded to present a universe where you had to obliterate enough geodudes to build your own Stonehenge. It feels good to feed a piplup cake by the ocean, have a challenging fight against its alpha dad, and then see little check marks appear when you visit your local Pokémon professor. It is the same game it has always been, but now taken to a new level that simultaneously feels completely modern and honors what has come before.

And I don’t want to ever go back.

WeeeeeePokémon Violet & Scarlet was (were?) announced this past weekend. The next Pokémon generation is coming, and, for the first time in the franchise’s history, I am not excited about this new development. I am frightened. Do I think we will see another game in the style of Pokémon Legends: Arceus again? Absolutely, as today’s featured game has sold too well and been too critically praised to be a Pokémon Pinball-esque evolutionary dead end (RIP). But is Violet/Scarlet going to learn the lessons of Arceus by this Fall? Likely not, as the production time involved here seems to imply parallel teams, or at least a development department that would hesitate to throw the highly successful franchise into something that was already distinctly labeled as a spin-off (after all, this whole Legends game initially seemed to be marketed as a supplement to the more traditional Pokémon Brilliant/Shining Diamond/Pearl, a title(s) now resigned to the dustbin of history). In short, the gameplay of Pokémon Legends: Arceus seems unlikely to be repeated in a “main” game due to be released in a few months. And I’m not certain I can do without. I can’t go back to the old ways! Reducing a legendary to low HP and chucking Pokéballs like you’re desperately buying scratch off tickets is the worst part of Pokémon Legends: Arceus, and it’s the only way to catch in the mainline games! I have seen a better way! Sprigatito deserves better!

So Pokémon Legends: Arceus broke the spell. I used to be happy with the Pokémon franchise, and now I cannot even be arsed to look forward to its next main entry. The zen of catching pocket monsters has evaporated, and now I am left with an experience that previously entertained me for hours being little more than meh. Am I going to catch ‘em all again? Signs generally point to yes, but now I am going to know it can and has been improved elsewhere. What I thought was my dream is actually Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit, and now I’m going to have to live through an unparalleled enervation of my own making.

Thanks, Pokémon Legends: Arceus. You are a videogame so good, you ruined my life.

FGC #621 Pokémon Legends: Arceus

  • This guy is hereSystem: Nintendo Switch. I would like to make the statement that this feels like the first Pokémon game ever that demanded a “console”… but I still played it in portable mode more often than not. Pokémon works really well while watching TV!
  • Number of players: Hey, I completed the Pokédex without once having to deal with another human being. That is an extremely welcome first for the franchise, and a reason that obtaining Magmortar is viable again. There is definitely multiplayer involved here, but this is an intended-as-one-player game.
  • Favorite Hisuian Pokémon: Oddly enough, I got a lot of mileage out of “snail” Goodra. I never liked ol’ goopy before, but her new typing and backpack really changes the game. Conversely, I’m going to call out Ursaluna and Sneasler, as they add absolutely nothing to their original designs. “What if Sneasel was taller and sad” is not a question that needed an answer.
  • So, Pearl or Diamond? The Pearl Clan has a cute leader with adorable “overheating” animations, another time traveler from Pokémon Black/White, a dog breeder who wears goggles for absolutely no reason, and some shirtless dude who climbs glaciers for fun. The Diamond Clan has that one jerk with the blue hair who obsesses over a damn skunk. Team Pearl for the win, and it isn’t even a contest.
  • Goggle Bob Headcanon: Those weird bracelet thingies are keeping Irida so warm all the time. This is my belief. At least for now.
  • Look at that big lugAction Hero: There is a lot to like in PL:A. However, the control scheme is bonkers, and I cannot fathom why things like “switch mounts” are on the horizontal cross pad, but then “activate mount” is a lettered button (while the vertical crosspad buttons trigger a game-freezing menu). This usually is merely more confusing than anything, but some of the more complicated bits of the game become incredibly frustrating with this setup. Catching the genie quartet springs immediately to mind, as hopping on an elk, jumping and dodging tornados, immediately dismounting the elk, auto targeting, and then tossing a Pokéball should not be as complicated as it feels.
  • Picture it: Porygon’s existence is a mystery. If it appeared in Ancient Hisui due to time warps, was documented in that epoch, and then was the first artificially created Pokémon in modern times. So which came first? Did Porygon inspire its own creation? Or was it invented independent of reports from previous generations, and no one knows they were exactly the same? No matter! What’s important is that Professor Laventon’s entries in the ‘dex reveal his exasperation at the creature…

    He has issues

    Which inspired some art to be commissioned from Gogglebob.com contributor Poochtastic1

    Click for larger

    What is going on with this thing!?

  • Did you catch ‘em all? Yes, with Spiritomb and his blasted 107 component fetch quest being the denouement. I wonder how many people “naturally” found all those baubles, and had a completed normal ‘dex before the legendaries emerge. I may be surprised by the answer, but my personal belief is that Spiritomb and finding a wisp off in the corner of some poison swamp is the finale for a lot of players (if they even bother).
  • Did you know? The entire plot of this game is an excuse to create a painting that closes a stable time loop to inspire the bad guys of Diamond/Pearl. This is my kind of convoluted to a T.
  • I don't want to learnWould I play again: I still have to feed a few more cranidos to really complete my ‘dex, so I’m not putting it down quite yet. And after that? Well, if we don’t see another “Legends” game, I can certainly see returning. If this is somehow even further improved with later iterations though… wow, just thinking about it…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Infernax! Oh, that sounds nice and toasty for this time of year. Please look forward to it!

FGC #619 Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers 2

I would rather watch thisI am so terrified of being stupid that I may never enjoy anything ever again.

A long time ago in a plagueless epoch long past, it was stated well before the term “Millennial” was ever coined that Millennials interact with advertising differently than their parents. Supposedly, studies had been done that Millennials are more naturally resist to ads that worked on their forebearers, and this next generation of consumers required different tactics. No more could you simply stick Lucy Ricardo on the boob tube and have her tell people exactly what chocolate to buy; no, brands had to build a relationship with their audience. Millennials naturally resisted any and all advertisements that were presented as advertisements, and they loudly joked about the futility of blatant product placement. The paradigm has shifted! A new people is born that needs all new practices!

Or maybe they just needed to make a goddamned movie about chipmunks and their decreasing ability to be proper rescue rangers.

Let’s double back on that whole “Millennials react differently to advertising than their parents” thing. It is the opinion of Gogglebob.com and its attendant subsidiaries that this is and always has been bullshit. Yes, we react differently to advertising, but that is going to be true of literally every generation and the 50-year-old advertising executives that never want to change for any reason, ever. But even beyond that, Millennials were raised with a very unusual feeling of anti-permanence. Ever wonder why nerds are so obsessed with the concept of a fictional “canon”? While this has been a problem for generations, this was significantly exacerbated by a very variable childhood for the 80’s boys. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had a completely different continuity between their action figure box descriptions and their animated series. The Transformers had entirely separate universes if you watched a show or read the comics. Even He-Man, often looked to as the ur-“merchandising as entertainment” toy that kicked off the last forty years, could not master a universe where their stage play was half as fantastic as their box art. And we don’t even acknowledge the movie! So, with such contrasting childhood presentations, is it any wonder that an entire generation of nerds craved an authority to tell them what was “real”?

Start at the beginningAnd, whether you were a turbo nerd that noticed Donatello had markedly different eyes across adaptations or not, this impacted vast swaths of people of a certain age. And that can have some long term ramifications! Kids notice when there are incongruities in their own little universe, and, as they grow into surly teenagers, they eventually identify these “incongruities” as “lies our parents told us”. And, when reaching a certain age means you realize your entire childhood was a slapdash fabrication designed only to get you to bug your parents to go to Toys Я Us right now, cynicism is the only result. Are you surprised that an entire generation would thus crave an ephemeral genuine article, and reflexively reject any further attempt at trickery? We were a generation that read propaganda magazines for fun in our childhood, you can’t just toss us a warmed-up smattering of media leftovers and expect us to roll over and play consumer. We care about our properties, because you made us this way, dad! If we were never meant to know the Zelda timeline, then what was even the point of buying three different Zelda encyclopedias, huh!?

Err… actually… yeah. You can pretty quickly see how marketing switched around from “buy this product because we say so” to “buy this product because it is the real story”. And that “real story” can apply in a lot of different ways. We no longer laud actors, we appreciate their characters. Michael Myers and Seth Green are not selling cars, it is Dr. Evil and son Scott that have a Superbowl spot. Networks are not telling you to go out and buy cat food, it is the silly Adult Swim bumper telling you to buy into the latest streaming service. And Soap Company is all about telling you, dear consumer, that it is now hiring models that are not “model skinny”, as, apparently, Soap Company is the arbiter of whether or not bodies are desirable or not. One way or another, it is all about authority and permission, and advertising agencies have learned that Millennials react well to corporations that are working “with” their audience… even if that authorization is apocryphal.

How could it be betterWhat right does any company have to tell its audience what is canon? Original author? Sorry, you died. Company that acquired the rights in some merger? You will never undo Jaxxon T. Tumperakki just because you rubbed George’s beard the right way. And speaking of Disney, to even understand the most popular characters in their stable, you have to acknowledge that their stars were always meant to be adaptable cartoon “stars” that could fit into any situation. Mickey Mouse is a steamboat thief and magical warrior king, and he was literally designed to be able to be anything in between. Disney characters can be anything! Stop trying to sell us the “real story” of any given reboot! Stop trying to make “behind the music” for chipmunks!

… Yeah, alright, let’s talk about that trailer.

For any readers stumbling onto this blog post from the far-flung future of three months from now, understand that this entire article was written in response to the launch of the first trailer for Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers: The 2022 Motion Picture. I have not seen the movie. I have no real idea what the movie is going to look like. It could turn out to be the greatest thing since Citizen Kane (or at least The Lego Movie). I don’t know! But I do know that I had an almost instinctual, gut reaction to the trailer when I first saw it. And, even on a day when they also announced a Bioshock television show, this trailer stuck in my brain unlike any other chunk of media in recent memory. Hell, when was the last time I delayed an FGC post just so I could talk about something that happened “this” week? Maybe a Metroid game

And why do I care? Well, because this trailer impressed upon me two basic facts:

  1. I hate it. I hate it so much. This is a beloved children’s property by way of that food movie with the racist bread. This is some lowest common denominator dreck that is going to take potshots at the last thirty years of animation, and act like it is a damn trendsetter for daring to swing at a 2007 CGI movie nobody remembers (Beowulf. Yes it was a movie). You can’t claim you’re “doing a Roger Rabbit”, literally include Roger Rabbit, and then ignore the fact that the world of Roger Rabbit was a jaded metaphor for actual Hollywood, not some joyful romp through the dustbins of the Disney Entertainment Conglomerate.
  2. This is extremely my jam.

Fuck it! Just fuck it! I am not afraid to admit that this is probably the exact movie I would create if given the chance. Jokes about animation that only make sense to people that remember really specific movies (again, Beowulf)? Sure! Extremely meta concept wherein Disney Stars are actual Disney Stars? It I'm your biggest fanbeats rehashing a fight against Fat Cat. And while I might not ever indulge in the tired trope of “washed up stars” and “retired chipmunks”, the high concept lunacy of “CGI makeover” being a toon’s version of plastic surgery is right up my esoteric alley. Throw in an oblique reference to Chip ‘n Dale not having any time for maintaining airships, and you could practically see my signature on the script. And, while I am unlikely to be the person helming any Disney properties anytime soon (despite my prodigious Gargoyles fanfiction), I could even see being completely content with these concepts/gags as part of a comic book. I loved that time Lex Luthor and Porky Pig got to hang out, so a “where are they now” miniseries on the Rescue Rangers would be amazing. Hell, that’s just a little bit south of where the Darkwing Duck comic started anyway! And I loved that thing!

But this is a movie. This is a trailer that is being shared on every social media platform at 10 AM on a Tuesday. This is something that is being covered on every entertainment website ever created, and attached to a bursting comments section showcasing everyone’s slightest thought on the subject. This is something that will be advertised during commercial breaks, youtube pre rolls, and possibly even previews before big screen flicks. Hell, there are even odds this will have a trailer attached to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Chip n’ Dale will not be as ubiquitous as Encanto 2: Bruno’s Behooving, but it is likely to have a significant cultural presence between now and its release.

And that makes me want to kill it. I want to see violence visited upon it. I want it to pay for the crime of being advertised to the masses and being everything I could ever want.

Nobody likes sewersThis is pandering. From the first moment they lovingly flash over a Nintendo Entertainment System and its attendant NES cartridge, you know exactly who this trailer is for. This is not for super fans that have a Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers poster on their office wall (that I am currently looking at for inspiration, obviously), this is for people who dimly remember enjoying a cartoon some random weekdays after school. This is for people who can identify a “Nintendo game”, but do not even consider there could be someone out there with those games “mint in box”. This is a trailer aimed squarely at people that will not write 1,634 words (and counting!) about a goddamned movie trailer while pretending they are writing an article for a videogame blog. And I wonder what it is like to not be this crazy.

Er-hem.

It would be easy to step back from that statement as “oh you so cray cray” and call it a day, but I feel it is worth examining how I got to here. Strange but true: I wrote this article. All that nonsense about advertising at the top of the page? That is something that I have internalized since I heard the simple fact that “we” are supposed to be more resistant to advertising than our parents. It is something I have seen proven and reinforced over many years. God help me, the Digging the catfact that I am not easily “tricked” is something that I have made to be part of my own feeling of self. I am someone that does not “fall for” advertising. I am better than that. And, as a result, I am constantly on guard. I know nostalgia has been weaponized against me before. I know there is a Mega Man themed gacha right over there, perfectly willing to bleed my wallet dry in the name of getting Halloween Themed Roll on a good pull. I know I have become the “target demo”, and now my own childhood and hobbies are being used against me. I know they’re all out to get me, dammit! This trailer is the latest in crass pandering to a generation that can never let its guard down, lest corporate forces invade and conquer the whole of the cosmos!

… Or it’s just a silly movie about rescue rodents.

While it may not be their usual, this is a Disney movie, firmly premiering on a Disney-exclusive platform. If Disney could find a way to require any and all viewers to live in Disney sponsored housing while drinking Disney flavored cola, they would absolutely do lock that kind of nonsense down. This is a horrible, greedy company that would gladly ransom your childhood if it meant making an extra six bucks. It grants me no pleasure to do anything that supports such a company or its endeavors.

But on the other hand? This is a movie that I think will be at least worth a watch. This is something that will at least garner a few chuckles, if only because they make fun of that one movie with the Grendel (Beowulf!). I know I could boycott this movie. I know I could live without it. But if I am being honest, I also know that I and literally everyone I know could boycott this movie, and it would impact Disney’s bottom line about as much as closing Disney World: Detroit Location. If I somehow convince my tens of followers that this chipmunk movie is the second coming of Hitler, congratulations, a bunch of people that don’t have Disney Plus anyway are going to hesitate before they pirate the thing. This movie is crass propaganda for a past that never existed meant to profit off a generation already drowning in nostalgia… but what else am I gonna do with a free two hours?

So you know what? Screw it. I know it is an ad. I know this is likely some marketing executive’s wet dream about a Disney Afternoon extended universe (God help me if this movie has a post-credits Bonkers cameo). I know I am being tricked. But, at a certain point, you have to pick your battles. You must acknowledge that maybe being mad at a faceless corporation all the time is only going to hurt you, and never hurt said company. Maybe, at a certain point, you just shut up and enjoy the chipmunk movie.

And whether you make that decision or not, Disney and its nostalgia machine is never going to stop. You know, it never fails…

FGC #619 Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers 2

  • System: It was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1994, making it the last Disney Afternoon game on its debut console (Ducktales [1] was released in ’89). It popped up again on the Disney Afternoon Collection in 2017 for the Xbox One, Playstation 4, Steam, and not the Switch (because we live in Hell).
  • Number of players: Chip ‘n Dale are both playable simultaneously, so that’s two rescue rangers.
  • Flap flap flapMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: Yes, this whole “game” was an excuse to talk about a movie trailer. It’s my blog, I do what I want. Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers 2 is more of Rescue Rangers 1, but with better box physics, and a lack of level select/choose your own path. But at least Gadget gets a sprite! In a perfect world, this would be the Mega Man 2 of Disney Afternoon games, but, as it is, it is a mostly forgotten nicety that is fun to play when you have a chance. Please do not look at eBay to discover how much that chance can cost…
  • The Little Things: No overworld map, no route select, and the best you can get out of having any sort of choice is the final three areas can be played in any order. This is a notable step down from the preceding game… but it can be forgiven, because there is some manner of bat-dog boss. Eat that, weird ass alien from the original.
  • Further Improvements: There is a level with a ticking-bomb timer! And some of the throwing items have interesting secondary attributes! And all of the bosses have Kirby-esque “return fire” opportunities to attack, rather than tossing a little red ball around. Somebody really identified what was slapdash in CnDRR, and improved it across the board for the sequel. Too bad it was released after everyone stopped playing NES games…
  • Favorite Boss: One of the last levels is a clocktower that seems like it was shamelessly imported from a Castlevania. And at the top of the tower is not Death, but an ostrich riding a gear like a unicycle. It is hard to remember anything else after dealing with that kind of nonsense.
  • Not the clock tower you were looking forAn end: We get the typical Capcom NES ending sequence here, as the heroes teleport away to watch the villain’s castle crumble to dust. But did Fat Cat survive? Well, no, not if you only use further NES games as evidence. Maybe this movie will inspire a retro Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers 3?
  • Did you know? Monterey Jack using cheese as a drug metaphor was already part of the text, guys. Like, it was the entire basis of the character. You’re not clever.
  • Would I play again: Yes. I’m going to play the Disney Afternoon Collection again, and then I’m going to watch the Disney Afternoon Modern Movie, because I am a loser. I admit defeat. Happy?

What’s next? Okay, now we’re going to hit The Incredible Crash Test Dummies… assuming nothing more interesting happens again. No guarantees! Please look forward to an unknown future!

It just looks familiar

WW #14 Everyday Today’s Menu for Emiya Family

Due to the subject matter today, some items may be NSFW. In fact, let this serve as an outright trigger warning for sexual material, rape, rape via magical insects, workplace sexual coercion, and just all sorts of stuff that is traditionally not discussed on this blog. This is confirming that today’s article is rated M for Mature, even if the game itself is not. Also: general spoilers for various TYPE-MOON franchises. Also also, this article is weirdly long! Guess there is a lot to say on this subject…

Let us beginI.

Let’s talk about feminism, Joss Whedon, and at least one cooking videogame.

I suppose we should start with what has been on my mind lately: As a point of fact, I enjoy strong female protagonists. Nine times out of ten, I prefer a female protagonist to a male protagonist. If I am in the mood for noir, I like Veronice Mars. If I want to see some cheesy action, I’ll take Xena: Warrior Princess. I vastly prefer K-On or Azumanga Daioh to any male-centric anime comedy I could name. And when we are talking about ensemble casts, I do often gravitate toward the women (who are usually relegated firmly to “supporting cast”). And, in some randomly introspective moments, I have wondered why that seems to be the case. If I am being generous, I ascribe to the simple theory that I have been watching men’s media since I was a child, so I am tired of hearing about Optimus Prime, and would like to move on to Arcee for a change. I have also never been a particularly masculine man, so it is possible I more readily enjoy characters with arcs that involve less punching and more introspection (Spike has a shootout to solve his problems, Faye gets to reckon with a VHS tape). There are all sorts of reasons that I, a cis white male, would more readily enjoy a woman’s story.

It also might be because…

FGC #615 Cruis’n Blast

Let's go cruis'n!Being cool is overrated.

Let’s get something out in the open right now. Cruis’n Blast is a racing game that uses real cars. This is not Mario Kart, this is not a “racer” that includes shooting magical bolts at your opponents, and this is absolutely not a title wherein you can be a hedgehog at any time. Some of these real cars race through some fantastic situations, but those situations happen at legitimate locations. There is nothing imaginary about driving a 1959 Corvette through San Fransico, as that is absolutely something you can do (with some tens of thousands of dollars). And to drive that point home, here is the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that I use to score trophies in Cruis’n Blast…

Shiny

And here is… my wife’s car.

Also Shiny

Now, to be clear, this is my wife’s… how do I put this… toy. It is a car. She can drive it to work, to play Pokémon, or whatever you normally do with a vehicle. But it was also a gift. It is a car that will never be “traded in” for any reason. If it catches fire tomorrow, I am moderately certain my wife would be more upset than if I was lit ablaze. It is her baby, and something I will literally never understand about the person I love. I do not own a “toy” car, I just have whatever currently gets me to work. I drive a car that will get me to the videogame store and back, and if it is brand new or an old clunker, it does not make a difference to me. My wife gets excited when she has an opportunity to “take out” her Camaro. I get excited when I have an excuse to not touch my car for a week. That whole quarantine period a couple years back? Man, did I enjoy a complete lack of driving…

VROOOMBut this is not to say that I have dodged coolness splashback. Those in the first five aisles of the dolphin show may get wet, and, if you have a sweet green Camaro in your driveway, you may temporarily be regarded as cool. Do you know how many contractors, electricians, and plumbers have, unprompted, begged me to discuss engines, chassis, or whatever the hell “torque” is? It is a surprisingly high number. And, while I have been consistently confined to the passenger seat, I can tell you that the average drive through jockey is a lot more likely to compliment your coffee order when your vehicle has some “sweet lines”. And the cops that are pulling you over with regularity! Nobody ever immediately assumed I was involved in drug dealing when I drove my old Honda!

And this is all curious to me, because if I had my choice, this would be my ideal vehicle:

Less shiny

That dinosaur is, by all objective measurements, not cool. But damn do I love that scaley little monster.

Let’s take a step back a few decades. When Cruis’n USA came out, I was eleven. If you have managed to forget those halcyon years of your youth, let me remind you that when you are eleven, there is nothing more important than being cool. And Cruis’n USA was a chance to be cool! A driver’s license was still six years away, but you could pretend to drive with Cruis’n USA and its unique cabinet that simulated a driver’s seat. You could drive a Corvette! Or Ferrari Testarossa! And you could race each other to prove which of you would become the greatest driver ever (in half a decade). Back in the mid 90’s, my social circle was fond of hitting the arcades, and Cruis’n USA (and later, Cruis’n World) was always a lock. It was the coolest thing a pack of pre-teen boys had ever seen.

… Except I still wanted to play arcade Bomberman. Guys, can we play something else? Please? Okay, back to the car game…

WeeeeeNow, I want to be clear that I am not trying to claim I am some kind of unique, anti-establishment snowflake. I did enjoy playing Cruis’n USA, and I am also well aware that Mario Kart 64 sold something like a quadrillion more copies than the “real” car racing game. I prefer silly little cartoon people, and I am 100% certain I am not alone in this preference, if only because no one is begging for “A Chevy” to be the latest fighter in Smash Bros. Cars are cool, but it was Walt Disney that created his own Florida magical kingdom, not Henry Ford.

And when you look at the direction of Cruis’n Blast, you can certainly see that the nerds won. Cruis’n Blast features a wide variety of cool cars, but it also features available “vehicles” like helicopters, UFOs, unicorns, and the aforementioned triceratops. And none of these options actually fit the gameplay of C’B. Helicopters are known for the fact that they can fly, but rotors rev and move forward just like a landbound car. Unidentified flying objects don’t do that “F” thing, and do not even get me started on attempting to “chrome out” a unicorn. The “extra” vehicles stretch the definition of “vehicle”, and they all are meant to function like basic, mundane cars. In practically every case, these absurdities do not slot into the universal customization options, and, 90% of the time, they look downright goofy while racing around the track.

But goofy or not, it is pretty damn fun.

Cruis’n Blast probably should not be objectively ranked as a good racing game. It is a remarkably straightforward “drive in a line, remember to drift” racer that seems to lack even basic AI competition. Winning those nightmare cups is not difficult because you were outsmarted by an expert opponent, but because you did not get a boost at literally every opportunity. If it was not for the ability to “wreck” opposing cars, there would be no reason for anything other than time trials. But wrecking other cars? That’s fun! Speeding your car/helicopter/dinosaur over a ramp above a collapsing highway and twirling all the while? Absolutely fun. And, yes, my favorite dinosaur looks about as properly animated as moving an action figure around a Hot Wheels track, but you know what? That was fun when I was five, and it is fun when I’m -current age deleted due to buffer overrun-.

HERE COMES TWILIGHT SPARKLEAnd being cool? That sure seems overvalued. I guess it is cool to cruise around in a hot car that is turning all the lady’s heads (even if the car is owned by your favorite lady). But it looks like I will take goofy and nerdy any day of the week. Cruis’n Blast should not be considered better than Gran Turismo or its ilk, but I know which game I would rather have on my Switch when quarantining on another continent (not that I am speaking from experience here). Racing silly cars around silly areas in a silly game is fun! And there isn’t a soul I have to impress! You hear that, 12-year-old friends who I thought were so much cooler than me in junior high! I’m over it! And doing fine! And you had big ears, you jerks!

My wife has a cool car. I drive a virtual dinosaur, and I just unlocked a shark.

It's a shark!

I am feeling so cool it isn’t even funny.

FGC #615 Cruis’n Blast

  • System: Released initially, what, five years ago in the arcades? If, however, you have never seen an arcade in your life, it was released in 2021 for the Nintendo Switch.
  • Number of players: Four! I called dinosaur already, so you can’t have that.
  • So shinyFavorite Tour: The original arcade game only has five tracks. The Switch version expands that a bit, but, by and large, it simply reuses the old tracks in new ways. But they are reused in fun new ways! The Storm Tour, for instance, adds a tornado, rain, and yetis (not a weather phenomenon) to the proceedings. Couple this all with Neon Tsunami across Tokyo, and I like how this tour works.
  • Favorite vehicle that actually has wheels: There is something weirdly nostalgic about racing across the world in a big yellow school bus. Maybe you can pretend you are playing a juvenile version of Crazy Taxi? Whatever gets that bus to do some sweet jumps is okay with me.
  • Unlockable: Many of the vehicles are obtained by collecting keys scattered across the various tracks. Normally I am not down for this collectahon nonsense in a racing game, but when I consider that the alternative in this day and age would likely be paid DLC… well… let me just check if there is a FAQ to find all these doodads…
  • Did you know? Apparently the arcade version had multiple Lamborghinis available, but they did not make it to the console due to licensing issues. Dang! That could have been the cool car I always wanted!
  • Would I play again: This is absolutely an ideal game to play when I have a few moments to kill in portable mode, but no desire to play a game “forever”. It is bite sized! Like an arcade title! Funny how you don’t see that much anymore!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Axiom Verge! And maybe Axiom Verge 2! Let’s deal with a few rogue dimensions! Please look forward to it!

Attack Helicopter
If this is a reference to that gender joke, I am returning the game